Government Services
March 26, 2009

Standing Strong for Tomorrow�s Leaders � Unprecedented Investments in Education Foster a Bright and Prosperous Future

The Williams Government will take further actions this year to provide an education system that is both affordable and accessible for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. Budget 2009 will provide additional funding of $130.9 million, bringing the total budget for education to an unprecedented $1.29 billion. This will help address critical areas of importance in the K-12 and post-secondary systems, while helping to ensure students are provided with every opportunity for success.

"For several years, our government�s investments in education have supported the renewal and growth of our education system, from improvements in infrastructure and new programming to progressive student aid initiatives," said the Honourable Joan Burke, Minister of Education. "We have not waivered from our intent to provide the students of our province with the tools to achieve individual success and in turn, success for the province overall. Despite the current economic challenges, we are continuing to invest in key areas, with a focus on quality, affordability and accessibility."

Post-secondary Education System

This year, $10.9 million is allocated to make post-secondary education more affordable for more people. The Provincial Government will allocate $5 million to eliminate the interest on the provincial portion of student loans, to increase the amount of financial assistance students can access in up-front, non-repayable, needs-based grants, and to decrease the amount of spousal contributions to give married students greater access to assistance. In addition, $5.9 million is allocated this year to continue the freeze on tuition rates at public post-secondary institutions, bringing the total investment by the Williams Government in this initiative to approximately $71 million since 2005.

"We are the first jurisdiction in Canada to completely wipe out interest on provincial student loans and we know it�s an initiative that is extremely important to the students of our province," said Minister Burke. "This was clearly identified by current students, as well as those who are now repaying their loans, as a priority during our roundtable discussions this past January. An increase to up-front grants was also considered a priority. These new initiatives, coupled with our previous investments in the student aid program, secure our province as providing the best student aid package in the country."

The increase to the up-front, non-repayable grant program builds on the $10.7 million investment in 2007 to these grants. Students can currently receive maximum provincial financial assistance of $140 a week. With Budget 2009 investments, the amount students can access as a non-repayable grant will increase from up to $70 a week to $80 a week, reducing the amount they are required to borrow. This year, 8,400 students are expected to receive these non-repayable grants, with a further 49,000 people who are in the process of repaying their provincial student loans benefiting from the elimination of interest.

Other Key Investments in Post-secondary Education

Budget 2009 will see an additional $21.1 million allocated to Memorial University, which includes salary increases and $4.9 million for a continued freeze on tuition rates. Other highlights of this investment include:

  • $3.2 million to create a post-degree fast-track program for social work and to continue with the expansions to professional schools, as initiated last year, specifically for the Faculties of Business and Engineering, the School of Nursing, and the School of Social Work; and,
  • $1 million to support graduate school fellowships.

  • Minister Burke noted that in keeping with the Provincial Government�s commitment to greater autonomy for Sir Wilfred Grenfell College, $2.5 million is being allocated this year to assist the college with that transition.

    As reflected in other Budget 2009 announcements, $2.4 million is being invested to support research and development work at the Marine Institute of Memorial University�s School of Ocean Technology.

    College of the North Atlantic will receive an increase of $8.3 million in Budget 2009 which includes funding for the continued freeze on tuition rates, salary increases and support for additional skilled trades programming to be identified in consultation with the college.

    Public post-secondary institutions will also benefit this year from the Provincial Government�s $800 million infrastructure package. Budget 2009 allocates $34 million in the post-secondary sector for such projects as the new campus of College of the North Atlantic in Labrador West, a backflow prevention system to improve water supply and the renovation of facilities at Memorial University�s St. John�s campus, and a new academic building at Sir Wilfred Grenfell College in Corner Brook. In addition, the Provincial Government has allocated $15 million with the expectation of leveraging funding for post-secondary infrastructure from other levels of government.

    K-12 Education System

    Budget 2009 investments in the K-12 system focus on improving school infrastructure, which has been identified as the most critical area of need. The allocation for repairs and maintenance to existing schools will increase to $40 million. This is part of the Williams Government�s overall investment of $121.5 million in Budget 2009 for school infrastructure.

    As recently announced, specific projects to receive funding are: replacement of Davis Elementary and St. Teresa�s Elementary; extension of the cafeteria and new classrooms at Beachy Cove Elementary; new classrooms at Roncalli Elementary (St. John�s), St. Bernard�s Primary, St. Peter�s Junior High, and Upper Gullies Elementary; new classrooms and a challenging needs suite at St. Edward�s School (Kelligrews); and, an extension to accommodate new classrooms and replacement of the gymnasium at Virginia Park Elementary.

    "Our commitment to addressing maintenance issues and improving the physical condition of our schools remains strong, as evidenced by this year�s increase in funding," said Minister Burke. "We will continue to provide the province�s school districts with the necessary resources for regular repair and maintenance, as well as funding for significant new renovation, extension and new school construction projects."

    Other Key Investments in K-12 Education

    Budget 2009 will see an increase of $50 million for the K-12 system to support salary increases, the continued implementation of the recommendations of the ISSP/Pathways report, and programming for students. Other highlights of this investment include:

  • $1.5 million for student transportation, including increased fuel costs and bus maintenance needs;
  • $1 million for Healthy Students, Healthy Schools initiative;
  • $700,000 for school districts to cover increased utility costs;
  • $400,000 to further extend the high school skilled trades program to additional schools; and,
  • $400,000 to support school board elections.
  • In addition to the funding noted above for student transportation, the Provincial Government is investing $300,000 to enhance the school bus inspection regime offered through the Department of Government Services. Specific initiatives include exploring options to improve technical and mechanical aspects of school bus operation, and enhancing the department�s inspection capacity.

    "Based on what is learned, we expect to undertake further initiatives in the future," said the Honourable Kevin O�Brien, Minister of Government Services.  "Our government takes inspections of school buses very seriously.  School buses are subject to more frequent inspections than any other vehicle on the province�s roads and we want to go further to enhance our inspection regime."

    The Provincial Government will also provide $50,000 this year to the Provincial Information and Library Resources Board for its 75th anniversary celebrations.

    Minister Burke said Budget 2009 marks a milestone in terms of the investments to help students access an affordable post-secondary education and in balancing programming and infrastructure needs at a time when the province must continue with prudent fiscal management.

    "I am extremely pleased that we are able to move forward this year with the elimination of interest on student loans, while still increasing funding for infrastructure and improved programming across both the K-12 and post-secondary systems," said Minister Burke. "Investing more in our education system will bode well for the development of our young people and the growth and development of our province."

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    Media contacts:

    Jacquelyn Howard
    Director of Communications
    Department of Education
    709-729-0048, 689-2624
    Vanessa Colman-Sadd
    Director of Communications
    Department of Government Services
    709-729-4860, 682-6593

    2009 03 26                                                   2:10 p.m.

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